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The Basics of Child Visitation Rights

In the course of a divorce or a child custody dispute, the court will award custody based on the best interests of the child. If one parent is awarded sole or primary custody, typically the courts arrangement gives visitation rights to the non-custodial parent.

Unfortunately, in some cases the custodial parent will interfere with those visitation rights. If that happens, the non-custodial parent has a number of legal options to enforce his or her child visitation rights.

The Right to Child Visitation

Courts usually believe each parent should maintain contact with his or her child following a divorce. Therefore, the court will give visitation rights to the spouse who is not awarded custody. The court only withholds visitation rights in extreme cases. For example, the court might restrict visitation if it believes visitation might endanger the child. Likewise, supervised visitation may be ordered if the non-custodial parent has neglected the child in the past or made threats to take the child.

When a court rules on visitation rights, often it will order "reasonable" visitation and let the parents determine where and when visitation will take place. This allows for flexibility of the parents' and children's schedules, but it effectively gives the parent with physical custody more control over details like the dates, times and duration of visits. Because the divorce process is often bitter and emotionally draining, the custodial parent might be tempted to abuse that power and restrict or prevent the non-custodial parents visitation attempts.

Child Visitation Interference Solutions

If the custodial spouse is interfering with a reasonable visitation arrangement, a court may require the custodial parent take steps to ensure the child and the other parent have a relationship. The custodial parent might then be required to:

  • Make sure the child has regular interaction and contact with the other parent
  • Avoid undermining the relationship between the child and the other parent, either by word or deed

Sometimes a loosely defined reasonable visitation arrangement simply doesn't work. If you're child's other parent interferes with your visitation rights, you can ask the court to modify the custody and visitation arrangements, and even request a fixed schedule that will detail the times and places for visitation.

Some other examples of how a visitation arrangement can be modified include:

  • An increase in visitation rights
  • Requiring make-up visits
  • Mandating that visitations take place outside the custodial parent's home
  • Awarding custody to the other parent

Visitation rights are, indeed, rights, court-ordered and enforceable. If you believe those rights are being violated, talk to a qualified attorney.